These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have been preaching since 1968 in the Church of Christ. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men. Bernie Parsons
Five Items Of Worship
By Bernie Parsons - January 11, 2002 Rev. 07/08/03
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24 KJV
Hello, Family & Friends,
The church building is not the church, a temple, nor the "house of God". The church of the Bible usually met in people's houses for assembly, which is not called "worship service" in the scriptures. "Worship service" is a dangerous man-made concept for the church. Each of us is our own temple wherein we worship God. (Read "The Church Is Not The Building".) Therefore, while we are in the body, we are in a state of constant worship of God. Since we constantly serve God, then we are in a constant state of service. Thus, we are constantly in "worship service" to God. This is a major part of what is missing in the church, and what the church is missing. As a result, the world is unimpressed when they see what is lacking in our daily lives. Our daily life should be an offering to God, a living sacrifice.
Romans 12:1 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
Our salvation is secure when we walk in the Lord, and the Holy Spirit lives within us. This manifests itself in the way we conduct ourselves on a daily basis. Our entire life should be one of praise and honor to God, and to His son, Jesus. This is true worship service to God!
Philippians 2:12-13 "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit."
Matthew 12:36 "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."
Romans 14:12 "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."
Our bodies are to be presented as offerings to God, living sacrifices. We belong to Him. Every day we are to walk according to God's ways, in the footsteps of Jesus. We are in constant worship service to God.
1 Corinthians 6:19 "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Our worship and service to God is not about ritual, but about righteous daily living. There is a vital difference between religiousness and righteousness.
Mark 7:6-9 "He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."
The Bible does not teach "Five Items Of Worship" that constitute "acceptable worship" (as in, "acceptable to God"). These are enumerated in the Church of Christ as (1) Bible study, or preaching, (2) praying (one man leading the congregation in prayer), (3) singing (congregational), (4) taking the Lord's supper, and (5) giving, or "laying by in store". It is said that on Sunday one has not faithfully worshipped God unless all five "items of worship" have been dutifully performed. Non-Sunday morning assemblies must have "Three Items of Worship"--the original five, less the communion, or Lord's supper, and the giving, or "lay by in store". This ritualism is not specified by God to provide "acceptable worship" to Him--it is man that has determined this methodology. God asks us to worship Him in spirit and in truth, living by every word that proceeds from Him--not from man!
Those men who forged and promoted the concept of "Five Items" were spiritual offspring of reformed Roman Catholics. It is no wonder that they sought a system similar to the Roman Catholic "Seven Sacraments". The "Five Items" were supposedly the result of using "scientific" inductive reasoning to try and establish a Biblical pattern for church assemblies, or gatherings. (Read "What Is The Church of Christ?" to learn of the inductive reasoning method used to determine these doctrines.)
Do those who teach "Five Items of Worship" insist that these five things must be performed in the assembly every Sunday, and in this fashion? Yes. Some even go so far as to say that a specific order in which these "Items" are engaged is presented in the Bible, and must be strictly followed. To disagree results in being "disfellowshipped", or "shunned", as a heretic and a non-believer in the truth. Yet the Bible teaches no such thing as the "Five Items" as "acceptable worship". These were born of the "inductive reasoning" craze that developed around 150 to 200 years ago, wherein Reformation Movement leaders felt that everything had to be proved scientifically. Thus, "scientific" lists of "steps to becoming a Christian" and "orderly worship" emerged. (Read "Spirit & Truth".)Giving
One of the "Five Items" can be marked from the list with little study, and that is "giving". No doubt the initiation and the perpetuation of this doctrine was rooted in good intentions. Someone hoped to coerce the members of the church to give that which they should already have been doing willingly and generously. This "lay by in store" is based upon the words of the Apostle Paul in:
1 Corinthians 16:1-4 "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me."
The reasoning is that Paul commanded that we all must give on the first day of each week. There is even rancorous debate over whether that means every man and woman, or the head of the family only. This ignores several important points. First of all, although Paul said in the first Corinthian letter that he was commanding them to contribute, he later backed off that strong statement in his follow-up letter, probably after some of the Corinthian Christians criticized his demanding tone.
2 Corinthians 8:8 "I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love."
Furthermore, this was a one-time collection, not a lifelong weekly affair. This is mentioned in I Corinthians 16:3-4, and again in II Corinthians chapter 9. In the second letter, Paul spoke of his boasting of how the Corinthians were some of the first to agree to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem and Judaea. He then challenged them to live up to his brags by gathering goods and money that would be collected by Titus and certain other brethren, who would deliver said collection to Jerusalem. Most of II Corinthians chapter 8 is devoted to a discussion of who would be gathering the gift, and transporting it.
2 Corinthians 9:2-5 "For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready: Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness."
Paul's tone changes from, "I command you to give", to "give as you purpose, not of necessity", as in:
2 Corinthians 9:7 "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
This giving was a specific, one-time collection, not a mandated "Item Of Worship". In fact, Paul recalled the impetus for this collection in his letter to the church at Galatia.
Galatians 2:9 "And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do."
Paul also referred to this as an "experiment", not as a commandment, and certainly not as an "Item Of Worship".
2 Corinthians 9:12-13 "For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;"
Galatians 6:8-10 "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
It fits with the instructions of God throughout Old and New Testament teachings to help the poor, beginning first with the saints, then next, the unbelieving. (Some declare quite forcefully that we cannot use the "church treasury" for needy non-Church of Christ people.)
Were we to follow this godly teaching, instead of rendering it as an "Item Of Worship", we would move from a ritualistic giving to heartfelt relief of the needy saints, and move on to assisting the needy in our communities. This would nullify and negate all the debates about what the "church treasury", "offering", or "lay-by-in-store" can be used for. At any rate, it is not presented by either Christ or the apostles and early disciples as a weekly "Item Of Worship". (Read "Collection For The Saints".)
PrayerPrayer, although quite logically something that should be done each time the church assembles, is nowhere commanded as an "Item Of Worship". In fact the Apostle Paul said to "pray without ceasing", which means quite literally to never quit praying, so we should be constantly in touch with God through prayer. Prayer is communication with our heavenly Father, and is an act of worship in which we engage all the time, including during assemblies. It is nowhere set forth in the scriptures as one of five commanded "Items Of Worship" to be ritually accomplished to please God.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."
Romans 12:12 "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;"
Colossians 4:2 "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;"
Ephesians 6:18 "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;"
Colossians 1:3 "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,"
Do we have an example of the early Christians praying in assembly? Yes, we do, but it is not described as an "Item Of Worship" that must be carried out as part of a "worship service" designed to please God. We should do it as it fits with the doctrine of "praying always", and we have an example of the early church giving thanks to God in prayer.
1 Corinthians 14:13-17 "Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified."
Was prayer taking place in this assembly? Obviously, because of Paul's remarks about others being edified by the prayer, which was not to be offered in a foreign language unless an interpreter was available to translate.
Was instruction (teaching and preaching) being done in the assembly? Yes, prophesying was taking place in different forms, verse 26: "every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation". Each male member ("every one of you")--the women were forbidden to speak up, even if it were to ask questions--had a right to speak in the assembly. However, it was only to be two or three men speaking per assembly, and then by turn, only one speaking at a time. When something was revealed to another sitting by, the first speaker had to stop and let the next man speak.
We in the Church of Christ say that we want the true Bible pattern. Well, brothers, there it is! Now, how serious are we about shedding our Catholic/Protestant trappings in favor of the "Bible-pattern" church? Let's give up our one-man ministries and do it the way the first-century Christians did it!
Was there congregational singing in this assembly? It is not mentioned. In fact, what we see is a "solo" performance, which is condemned in the Church of Christ. Look at verse 26: "Every one of you hath a psalm" indicates that each man had a way of edifying the gathered body, and one of those ways was to present edification by way of a psalm, a type of song. Remember verse 31--"For we may all prophesy one by one", which reveals that one may might present his message as a psalm!
Is congregational singing commanded--or even discussed--in the New Testament? Some call upon the hymn sung by Jesus and the apostles in Mark 14:26.
Mark 14:24-26 "And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."
This was apparently part of the Passover observance, and does not bear directly upon the subject at hand. This is no commandment for congregational singing. If one truly wants to emulate this, and feels that it should be done in church assembly, then we must learn how the Jews did it 2,000 years ago as part of their Passover feast, and then do likewise.
Others refer to Ephesians 5:19 as a "commandment" for congregational singing.
Ephesians 5:19 "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;"
However, this directive was for Christians to "speak to yourselves", "singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord". Sometimes I sing within myself to remind myself of something that is relevant to how I am feeling at the time. Is this what is being directed in this letter to the Ephesians? Devout scholars cannot agree. Some say it means to sing congregationally, while making melody internally. Some say it refers to the men speaking one at a time, addressing the entire assembly, as Paul mentioned in I Corinthians 14. Still others say that it means to speak to one another in song, comparing it to Colossians 3:16.
Colossians 3:16-17 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."
When both are read in context, they appear to be saying the same things to two different congregations of the church. What strikes me about both of these writings is that they deal with daily Christian life, not a church assembly, or gathering. In both cases, Paul reminds the Gentile Christians to put away their former worldliness of fornication, drunkenness, and the like, and to be filled with God's Holy Spirit. In both cases, he instructs wives to submit to husbands, children to their parents, and servants to their masters. Not quite a description of a church gathering, and how to conduct it. In the middle of both of these parallel dissertations, Paul gives his "singing instructions". Taken in context, they seem to be saying that we are to warn and edify each other by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. "One another" means one to another. "Another" means "one other", so that when we use the phrase "one another", we are saying, "one to one other". Singing one to one other sounds like a one-on-one proposition, with one person warning or uplifting another person in song. This fits with what James wrote, and rather than a prescription for "acceptable worship service", is apparently an admonition for Christians to help each other along life's way.
James 5:13-20 "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
After all, the early Christians had close relationships, as evidenced by the scriptures.
Acts 2:41-47 "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
Galatians 5:26-6:2 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
Would it not make sense that if we had such close relationships today, that when one of us should see a brother or sister feeling depressed or discouraged, that it would be fitting to encourage them with a song? By the same token, if light-hearted, might we not sing songs of praise to God, as did the psalmist David? Odd as this might seem to us, it is how the early Christians behaved. In neither Paul's letter to the Ephesians, nor the one to the Colossians, is he setting forth a "pattern" for singing in the "worship service", as some maintain.
The Lord's Supper
Did the early Christians take the body and the blood of the Lord in their assemblies? Yes, as the Apostle Paul explains in:
1 Corinthians 11:20-34 "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come."
How frequently was this done? Paul wrote: 1 Corinthians 11:26 "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." This does not delineate how often to take it. However, when he wrote to them regarding the "collection for the saints", he mentioned a weekly gathering on the first day of the week (our Sunday). 1 Corinthians 16:2 "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come."
And the writer of Acts mentions such a gathering intended for "breaking of bread".
Acts 20:7 "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight."
We see, not God commanding "Five Items of Worship" for an "acceptable worship service", but an example of the early church gathering on the first day of the week to "break bread", or to take the Lord's supper. During such gatherings, teaching took place.
There is no commandment for congregational prayer to be led by one man, yet there is the proposal that prayers be said in the language of the attendees so that they can say "Amen". Therefore, we can conclude that prayer was common at the assemblies.
There is no commandment for congregational singing, nor is there an example of such, only an example of the teachers using psalms to teach, and an admonition for saints to teach and encourage one another by singing to one another.
The gathering of relief for the Jerusalem saints was to be done on the first day of the week, and we assume that this was because they were already meeting to break bread on that day. There is no record that this collection was to continue once the collection was taken to Jerusalem.
What is the Biblical example for assembly? Christians meeting on the first day of the week to have the Lord's supper, at which time teaching may take place. Such teaching may take the form of a psalm on some occasions. Prayer is assumed, because of its importance and because of Paul's mention of prayer during assembly.
Otherwise, the early disciples met daily from one house to another, sharing meals, discussing the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Anything beyond this is speculation and conjecture, even if cloaked in the "inductive reasoning" excuse.
Love, in Christ,